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all children grow up (save one)

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Once there was a boy named Peter Pan, who never wanted to grow up. And so, he never did.

He flew away to Never Neverland with Tinkerbell, his fairy. They had many adventures there, in the land of wild things and innocence and all creatures and children that do not ever wish to be tamed. And though I am sure you have all heard his story, there is another that has not yet been told. Peter Pan had a family, long, long ago. He had a sister.

Her name was Sarah, and she was as pale and thin as Peter was dark and strong. She was very sick, and though Peter was never told outright just how very sick she was, he guessed. It made him sad, in that strange, uncaring way that children feel sorrow, for Peter loved his sister very much. He loved most of all the stories she told. Stories of pirates on the high seas, swashbuckling and wicked, stories of fairies and mermaids with cold eyes and scaly hands, stories of painted Indians with proud and noble faces, stories of a place where magic was in everything, and everything was magic. Peter could sit for hours to hear the tales Sarah spun, listening in rapture as her fever bright eyes lit up and her pale hands gestured animatedly while she narrated.

"I'll find it for you, Sarah!" he'd exclaim, clasping her hands in his, "I swear I will! We'll see the pirates and the mermaids, and have real adventures together." Sarah nodded her sweet head eagerly and smiled, a smile that was bright and full of sunshine, and they fell asleep together; hand in hand. Their parents turned their sad eyes down and shook their tired heads, and in private, Mother wept and wept.

~*~

 

Sarah was nearly ten years old when her illness became steadily worse; Peter almost eleven. He knew nothing of how dire his sister’s condition was, only that she could hardly get out of bed any longer, and that when he was allowed in to see her, she was so very thin he was half afraid if he touched her she would shatter into a million pieces. One night, bone weary and resigned, Peter’s father sat him down and told him the truth. Sarah was dying. Nothing could be done.

"Do you remember, Sarah?" Peter whispered hours later as he sat next to her bed, "The place in your stories? What was it called?"

"Never Neverland." Sarah whispered back, her voice as thin and weak as the rest of her.

"I'm going to take you there, Sarah." His eyes were so determined that she believed him.

The family house was very close to Kensington Gardens, and the next day Tinkerbell found him there, tear tracks on his dirty cheeks, hiding under a willow tree and weeping softly. Peter could never say how she’d discovered him in the first place; Tink would say later only that he had needed her, and she had come. Her bell-like speech was perfectly clear to him at once, and eagerly, he'd asked her the way to Never Neverland.

That night, he crept into Sarah's room on feet that did not touch the ground, a strange golden glow about him that had not been there before. "Why, Peter, you're flying!" Sarah exclaimed, sitting up in bed in a sudden rush of energy brought on by sheer joy.

"I've found Neverland, Sarah." Her face lit up.

"Are you to take me there?" He clasped her hands in his and nodded. Her face fell. "Oh, but Peter, I don't think I can walk."

"You don't need to." He whispered in her ear, and Tink flew in through the window and settled on Sarah's palm. "Think happy thoughts, the happiest thoughts you've ever thought in your life." Peter crowed happily, doing somersaults in the air. As a cloud of twinkling fairy dust surrounded her, Sarah lifted up in the air with a shriek of delight, her poor, thin legs dangling uselessly; but then, she had no need of them any longer, after all.

"Take my hand!" Peter called, and Sarah did. They faced the open window together. "Second star to the right, and straight on till morning." Peter said, very softly.

"Take me to Neverland, Peter?" Sarah asked, trembling in anticipation. His answer was a smile, a secret, wonderful smile.

~*~

Three days later, Mother and Father woke from their vigil by the window to two dirty, exhausted, happy children sleeping soundly in their separate beds.

One week later, Sarah slipped away silently in Death's arms, carried as gently as a baby, and Peter flew along beside her the entire way, his tears golden and never-ending. But though he begged and pleaded, Sarah could not stay. She kissed his cheek and thanked him for taking her to Neverland, for now she was not so very afraid to die. Then she was gone.

When Peter returned home, Tink was waiting for him.

"I won't grow up, Tink." He said with a smile, though he was crying still, "They shan't make me, no matter how hard they try. I will live in Neverland with Sarah always."

And off he flew, with Tink to guide him, to the second star to the right and straight on till morning, and so, to Never Neverland. Sometimes, on starry nights when he felt very alone, he would think of home, and Mother and Father, but after a time they faded in his mind, and vanished all together. But he remembered Sarah every day, the one thing his perpetually boyish mind would never forget, for he was reminded by the mermaids and the pirates and the Indians and the sheer magic of everything around him. Sometimes it seemed to him that she walked right alongside him, and in all of his adventures she was with him. She would never truly leave.

The Lost Boys came to him in ones and twos, and he happily accepted them into his carefree, dangerous life. He was no longer so very lonely; he had the Boys, and Tink, and even old Captain Hook, the Codfish. But he never forgot Sarah, and he never forgot the stories that she told.

After all, he was living them.

"I come to hear the stories."

The strange boy said, peering at Wendy through a tangle of wild gold hair.

"I like to listen to them." 

And Wendy thought she'd never quite seen someone look so sad, and so happy at the same time.